Woman on Fire

Michelle Tenzyk

Peekskill, New York

Member: #00183

Member since: June 25, 2013


Please tell us about YOU, your family and your work. What are you “on fire” about?

I am a very proud 51 years old and love sharing my age. I realize that I’m in the best half of my life, with fewer worries about what others think and able to be myself most, if not all, of the time. My husband, Joe, and I just moved from New York City to Peekskill, N.Y., which is in Northern Westchester County, about 50 minutes outside of New York City.

It is somewhat like coming home for us, as we were both raised in Westchester County, Joe in Yonkers and me in Valhalla. We have glorious views of the Hudson River from every floor of our new home, offering true serenity 24/7.

Joe and I were married in April 2012, and he is the love of my life. I waited a very long 15 years to find him after I went through a tough, heartwrenching divorce in 1997. I looked far and wide, long and hard, before. finally, my Joe came along. He was so worth the wait and the effort — and it was effort!

After we were married a year, I had a realization that, although I had been quite content as a single woman, I had been missing that deep connection with a partner of being loved unconditionally. I hadn’t known it was missing because I didn’t have it. But now that I do, I am I so deeply satisfied. Truly.

I run my own boutique consulting firm, East Tenth Group, providing strategic human resources consulting, leadership development and executive coaching services to middle-market businesses across the United States. I absolutely love it, and the business has more than doubled in size this past year.

I’m on fire about the movement I founded: The Truth Behind Our Titles™, which empowers women to share their professional journeys, including the challenges. Our inaugural event will be in New York City on Oct. 1.

How did you originally connect to Women on Fire?  

I connected to Women on Fire through the amazing Cari Vollmer, whom I knew through Rochelle Togo-Figa and her coaching work. Cari posted something on Facebook about the organization, and I decided to take a “look-see.” I’m rather skeptical about women’s groups, but I bought the first Women on Fire book and read it cover to cover.

I dog-eared a number of the stories, especially Kelley Black’s. I then went to the Feminist.com event in New York that Debbie sponsored and to the June 2013 tea at Lady Mendl’s. I have never looked back! I love it!

What’s your favorite component of the Women on Fire membership? 

I love meeting women who are on a similar journey to mine, women who are seeking to better themselves and live a full, joyous life. It makes me not feel so alone, especially when we openly share some of our hardships and struggles on the Facebook page. We can get real and vulnerable without shame. That’s where I am in my life and that is whom I want to surround myself with. And then there is Debbie! Simply put, perfection!

What is your favorite part of the day?

I’m not sure I have one. On weekends, it is late morning when I’m having my first cup of coffee with my husband after I sleep in. My full energy tends to kick in during the mid to late afternoon.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend to other Women on Fire?

I loved Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Her grit, determination and willingness dumbfounded me.

What is one thing you’re most proud of? 

I have a number of things I am proud of. I will start with saying that I was at the bedside of my mother and my father when they died. As difficult as it was, I have a sense of peace that I was able to show up and be there during that sacred, beautiful time in our lives when one of us moved on to the great unknown. Our very own Mary Landberg captures this time beautifully in her book, Enduring Love.

Right now, I am most proud of founding the movement The Truth Behind Our Titles™: Strength, Resilience and Hope for the Professional Journey. I had been thinking about this for almost 10 years, but was too scared or uncertain about how to tell my story. I wanted to do something in the corporate sector that would be useful and helpful, not just tell my story for the sensationalism.

Now I am doing it. The inaugural event is Oct. 1 at the 3 West Club in New York City, and we are garnering such great attention. I believe in this with all my heart. There is so much work to be done in the corporate and professional setting to help us comfortably live more fully integrated lives.

I’m most proud that I’m doing it with another Woman on Fire, Kelley Black — once again showing that this might not be happening without Women on Fire! I am deeply honored and grateful for all of the support I am receiving.

If you had an unexpected free day, how would you spend it?    

Going to the beach, lounging by the pool, lazing around. I am a very lazy person.

What is your favorite city in the world?

It is a tossup between New York City and Paris.

Share a special Women on Fire moment or experience.  

I have two. When I went to the Women on Fire tea in June 2013, I didn’t think that any of the authors of the book would be there. Common sense eludes me at times! So when we went around the table and Kelley Black — whom I was dying to meet — spoke, I almost knocked over other women to get to her. For me, it was divine.

My second special experience was bringing Ginny, my best friend of 48 years, to the Women on Fire Retreat last February in Naples. Priceless!

What’s your big dream?

That our movement, The Truth Behind Our Titles™, helps corporate and professional individuals know their truth. I want the walls of shame and fear about sharing our adversities and challenges in the corporate setting to come down. I want high achieving women and men to feel empowered, through our collective experiences, to find strength and resilience for their professional journeys.

I truly hope and pray this movement becomes a global calling. I am humbled by the response we are receiving already and would be honored to help even one person.

If you had the opportunity to teach a child one strategy that would help to guide her life, what would that be? 

Never be afraid to ask for help in everything and anything you need to or want to do. I find that, as we get older, we tend to not want to ask for help. We wear self-sufficiency as a badge of honor, and while it has its advantages, it can hold us back from further learning, growth and development. It’s impossible to know how to do everything and be wise in all things. Asking for help grows us exponentially.

What is something that we might be surprised to learn about you?

I was a pianist from age eight through my late 20s — and quite a good one. I played competitively all through high school, and my undergrad degree is in music. Oh, and I was class clown in grammar school and high school and know how to do some of the best pranks. Yep.

Name three women who have influenced your life, and tell what you’ve learned from each.

My mother, Jeannette Tenzyk, who died from Alzheimer’s in 2006, taught me every possible thing — how to cook, bake, clean, sew, crochet, knit, needlepoint, garden, always say thank you, wear slips, take good care of my skin, and be lovely to strangers and the elderly. Most important, she taught me to be kind and help others as much as possible.

Ginny Escobedo, my best friend since we were three years old, exudes love, loyalty, faith and friendship. She shows me how to never give up, to always have faith, even when it is the darkest of days, and to maintain a long friendship by tending it with love, laughter, honesty and joy.

Sheree Stomberg was my first female boss when I worked at Swiss Bank early in my career. She had just been promoted to the divisional head of the technology group. She set the standard for me of a highly accomplished female leader. She was smart, fearless, fair and incredibly successful. I always remember wanting to be like her as I advanced in my career.

Who cheers you on?

My dad was my biggest cheerleader. Even though he died in September 2011, I still believe he is cheering me on. My husband, Joe, constantly gives me encouragement, as do Ginny, Maria, Elizabeth, Jen Brooks, Julie, Barbara, Kathleen and Giuliana.

What is your favorite “pig out” food?

French fries.

What are the top three songs on your iPod right now?

“Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Ain’t It Fun by Paramore, and “Love Runs Out” by One Republic.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced and how did you overcome it?

In 2009 I broke up with someone who wasn’t one of my better choices as a boyfriend. After the breakup, he chose to harass me to the point of endangering my life, horrifically vandalizing my car and other terrible things. I had him arrested and pursued prosecuting the case for more than 18 months because I knew what was true.

I found out what it was like to be a victim and go through the court system, how it is the victim who is put on trial more than the person who commits the crime. I sought out victim counseling to keep my sanity and saw it through. He finally pled guilty after 18 long months of my fearing for my life.

I had a restraining order for more than three years. I always believe in the truth and will do almost anything to find it or prove it. This was by far one of the most difficult things I have gone through because of the embarrassment and shame I felt for getting myself into the mess in the first place.

But I stuck it out to the end. I realized that so many victims might not have the internal or external resources I had to get through it. I completely understood why so many drop their cases — and, hence, why we see so many women get killed. It really just saddens me.

What is your go-to self-care strategy?

A day at the spa!

When you reflect on your life so far, what is the first word or two that comes to mind?

Survivor

More about Michelle Tenzyk…

Michelle Tenzyk serves as the president of East Tenth Group. She has more than 25 years of experience in human resources and maximizing leaders’ capabilities across multiple industries. East Tenth Group is fiercely committed to helping leaders and their businesses thrive in today’s complex environment. They partner with small- to middle-market businesses that need strategic leadership and human capital insights, perspective and experience to grow and sustain their efforts. You can find Michelle’s posts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (@michelletenzyk). You are welcome to say hello to her at michelle(at)easttenthgroup(dot)com.

Read the story on debbiephillips.com.

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